Money While Traveling

money while traveling

Money While Traveling

Whether you are going on a two week vacation or traveling Europe for five months how you handle money is important for both safety and staying on budget. The more my wife Joyce and I traveled, the more we developed a system that makes sure we always have money on hand but our savings are safe from would be thieves or scam artists.

I’ll break down a few things to do before you leave for your trip and then a few pointers on dealing with expenses while on the road. This is all based on the idea of mostly using cash when you travel. We like to use cash over credit cards because everyone accepts cash so you are always ready no matter where you find yourself.

Ten Ways To Deal With Money While Traveling

1. Open a separate travel savings account.

This is a good idea to help you save for a trip but it is also a good way to shelter your money if your debit card gets compromised. Your travel account is where the bulk of your trip money is kept and then you transfer small amounts as needed to your debit card account. Which leads me to my next money management tool…

2. Open an account for a travel debit card.

The Charles Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account is the best one we have found for travel. You’ll be using a lot of ATMs to withdraw cash throughout your trip and this card refunds any and all ATM fees plus has no foreign transaction fees.

Once in Mexico we were charged a $29.00 ATM fee and the Schwab card refunded that.

Don’t let its fancy name fool you, even though it is linked to an investment account you can operate the account as you would any checking account. It has been our experience that Charles Schwab Bank has excellent customer service with no sales pressure.

3. Withdraw cash based on your budget.

In order to keep things simple let’s say you have a $100 a day average budget for your trip. Withdraw an amount equal to $300 and you know that is what you are allowed to spend for the next three days. Compound any leftovers and you can splurge from time to time.

4. Keep separate amounts in different pockets.

The idea here is to keep a small spendable amount in one pocket and the rest of your cash somewhere else so you don’t flash a big wad of cash when paying for that $1 souvenir. It can also help when haggling on a price because you don’t reveal that you have more money available.

5. Backup credit card for unexpected expenses.

Whenever we travel we keep a credit card that we don’t use safely stashed away from the rest of our cards and cash. This way if our primary cards get lost or stolen we have a backup card to help us get back on our feet.

6. Understand the conversion rate.

Before getting your boots on the ground get your head around the conversion rate of the local currency so you always know what you are spending. I always like to know what is the equivalent of $10USD in the local currency, that keeps it simple and allows me to always have a gauge of how much things cost.

7. Get cash before leaving home.

This will depend on your destination but chances are your local bank can get you foreign currency without charging you any extra fees. We do this at Wells Fargo before we leave so that we can enter a country with that country’s currency in hand. As a general rule you never want to exchange money at an airport so this makes that easy to avoid.

8. Use ATMs not money exchangers.

You’ll always get a better rate from your bank than from a currency exchange. Cash machines can be found just about anywhere in the world, even Mogadishu has one ATM. But be mindful of ATM locations and do some reading up on ATM safety. Hotel lobbies can be a nice safe place for using an ATM to get money while traveling.

9. Keep backup USD cash.

This goes along with the backup credit card. Having one or two hundred dollars of US currency is just another safety net. Find clever, but not too clever, places to stash these bills. I’ve used the soles of my shoes, beat up old books, and hidden compartments in my backpack. This cash stash is handy when the ATM you find is not in service or the town doesn’t have power that day (we’ve experienced both).

10. Have a record of credit card and bank info available.

Write down the 1-800 numbers on your card and keep it some place safe so you can easily call your bank if something happens to your card. Email this information to yourself or use a service like Evernote to have an electronic copy available as well. Just don’t write down complete credit card numbers or any info someone else could use to compromise your money.

That is the basic outline of the system we have developed through our travels for dealing with our money while traveling. I hope you find these pointers useful and are able to adapt them to your own style of travel. If you have any questions I am not too hard to reach.